December 23, 2012

Steps to Take to Increase Bonus and Pay

We have another New Year looming, and along with the end of another year, and our resolutions to do better, come annual compensation changes: usually a bonus, accompanied soon after with an annual review and a pay raise.

While these events should be cause for celebration and happiness with their increased fortunes, there are always some employees who view their bonus and/or pay increase with disappointment: they feel that they should have gotten more. And whether they should have or not, sadly, more than a few employees let their disappointment ruin their relationship with their boss–and their future with their firm.

If you find yourself unhappy with your bonus or your raise, I encourage you to take the following steps, to turn things around rather than make them worse. First, take a deep breath and honestly consider whether you’re truly unhappy with your compensation level, or if the source of your dissatisfaction isn’t some other aspect of your job.

In my experience, happy employees almost never ask for more money: they like their jobs, which shows in their performance, for which they are rewarded. So, if you’re unhappy about your comp, chances are there’s something else you’re really upset about, and simply getting paid more won’t make that problem go away. If this is the case, you need to identify the source of your unhappiness, and take that up with your boss. Leave money off the table until that problem is solved, and nine times out of 10, your money issues will be too.

Second, determine whether you really deserve a raise or if you simply want one. In some cases, an employee will be happy with their job, but their personal circumstances have changed–a new baby, a bigger house, caring for elderly parents–which in turn, causes them to want/need more money. There’s nothing wrong with this: it’s how life works sometimes. The mistake that some employees make is believing that their new needs are somehow their boss’ problem. They aren’t; they are yours. And consequently, you need to solve them.

Copping a bad attitude, letting your performance suffer, and grousing about how you’re worth more isn’t going to help: it’s only going to alienate your boss and your co-workers. Instead, adjust your attitude by focusing on whether you really are underpaid or are actually receiving fair, competitive comp. Chances are it’s the latter, so rather than deluding yourself into feeling you deserve more for the same job, start thinking about what you can do to make yourself more valuable to your firm.

To start with, change your pattern. Start doing an even better job than you have been: come in earlier, do more, help your co-workers with their jobs, take more initiative, extra projects, etc. In short, do whatever you can to demonstrate you deserve more money. More often than not, just a simple increase in productivity will get the attention of your boss and other employees, resulting in higher comp.

If working harder doesn’t solve your new financial needs, the next step is to talk with your boss about what you can do to help your firm more. I’ve never seen an owner/advisor yet who didn’t respond to an employee who asked: “How can I help you more, so that I can earn more?” Think about it as you would a client relationship. Advisors who simply raise their fees to make more money usually lose clients. But if they increase their services, clients are usually happy to pay more. If you take this “increased service” approach with your boss, you’ll almost always get what you want.

Finally, a note to all employees: no matter how much your bonus and/or raise is, or whether you think it’s generous or not enough, don’t forget to thank your boss. People like their good intentions to be recognized, and whether you realize it or not, bosses are people, too.

Did you ever have a spouse or significant other who always complained about the gifts they received? Did that make you more or less likely to give them gifts in the future? Whether you like what you got or not, your boss make the effort to give it to you: and rarely gets anything in return. When you thank them, and tell them how much you appreciate it, you’re reinforcing their behavior, and increasing their incentive to give more to their employees in the future.

Good luck getting more next year, and enjoy the holidays! 

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